Live from Alabama: A historic day in the making

BIRMINGHAM — Today, Nov. 21., I am writing from Birmingham, Alabama where I am proudly representing the 2.1 million members of SEIU and standing alongside members of Congress, faith, community and civil rights leaders to speak out against the state’s racist, anti-immigrant law.

What is happening here in Alabama and all across the country is threatening the livelihood of many working families and small businesses. At a moment when Americans of all walks are uniting around the sentiment of the 99 percent movement, politicians continue a never-ending charade to distract and divide us, ignoring the economic and social consequences in the process.

What politicians have obsessively called a “job creating” bill has proved to be anything but.

From the day this law was passed, farmers, construction managers and other small business owners expressed their concern that pushing thousands of hard working immigrants out of the state would have serious ramifications on their ability to pick tomatoes, build homes and stay open for business. Less than two months after the law was passed, their concerns have proven to be true.

Adding insult to injury, we learned that a foreign executive of Mercedes Benz-a major employer in Alabama-was arrested on Friday because he was not carrying his papers.

First, the Alabama governor chases away the workers and now the employers are getting trapped. What kind of a jobs plan is that? He says: ‘Show me your papers,’ but we demand: ‘Show us the jobs.’ Instead of importing jobs, the Alabama law threatens to deport workers and employers alike.

I am here today because I believe this law is an affront to our values as a country and because it damages our economy and workers. Fear is not a jobs policy. This law should not be happening, not in our America.

This morning, I heard a business merchant say that she is preparing to shut down her Birmingham business early next year because HB 56 has cost her a 70 percent drop in revenues.

A few hours later, members of Congress held a press conference at Birmingham City Hall ahead of an ad-hoc congressional hearing to emphasize that there is a better way to deal with the immigration system.

The hearing will include key leaders – including Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Mary Bauer of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Superintendent of Birmingham Schools Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Jefferson County Sherriff Mike Hale and concerned teachers, parents and business owners – who will testify about the devastating consequences left in the wake of this law.

Tonight, thousands of Alabamians from across the state will come together at the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist church to speak out against this draconian law. At the event – One Family, One Alabama – I will join civil rights leaders, business owners, politicians, faith leaders and others to lift a common voice.

This campaign is not just for the people of Alabama. It is for all Americans who know we are better than laws like HB 56. It is time for each of us to stand up and say, “Not In My America!”

Mitch Ackerman is SEIU International Executive Vice President

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Photo: SEIU